Carnival Wolves (1998)
Alan Johnson is a man ill-at-ease among people and only slightly more comfortable with animals. His story begins in upstate New York with his rescue of an injured Dalmatian who "came down out of the sky and survived the fall, showed me how gradually I have fallen--how I never touch, never really talk to another person...I am hardly a person at all." The dog heals and is returned to its neglectful owner, but Alan Johnson steals it back and heads west in search of what it means to be human.
As he crosses the United States, he moves through landscapes full of animals half-tamed and people run wild: a fanatical taxidermist, a lonely woman raising tigers on her remote ranch, a tragic circus chimp named Rufus, contemporary polygamists, and the caretakers of boot camps for troubled youths. They are Carnival Wolves, manifestations of our attempts to tame what is dangerous and wild, distorted reflections of parts of ourselves.
After a tortuous journey through various states of depravity–and of America–Alan Johnson ends up in California having reached a reconciliation of instincts and having found a human being he can love. A gripping, hallucinatory read, Carnival Wolves is a provocation, a plea for identification that questions the humanity of its readers and confirms Peter Rock as a unique literary talent.